Flames on the Road
|Toronto ||Oct. 15, 5:00 p.m. ||CBC/The Fan 960 |
|Montreal ||Oct. 17, 5:30 p.m. ||Flames PPV/ The Fan 960 |
|Boston ||Oct. 19, 5:00 p.m. ||Flames PPV/The Fan 960 |
TORONTO (CP) — Everybody was saying before the NHL season began that lack of offence would be to blame if the defensively diligent Calgary Flames failed to realize their full potential.
A lot of people picked them to win the Western Conference.
Four games in, lack of scoring is indeed a problem. The Flames produced only five goals in going 2-2. Jarome Iginla has two goals and Alex Tanguay, Stephane Yelle and Marcus Nilson have one each. That's it. There's a big 0 beside every other name in the lineup.
"We haven't scored as many goals as we would have liked but it's early," Iginla said after practice Friday. "Our focus is more on just finding ways to win games."
It helps to have a Vezina Trophy winner in net, as Miikka Kiprusoff showed again Thursday night in stopping everything the Senators threw at him in Ottawa, enabling the Flames to escape with a 1-0 victory.
They take on the Toronto Maple Leafs on Saturday.
Calgary has one puny goal in 30 power-play chances. The 3.3 per cent success rate is 30th in the 30-team league.
"Maybe we're putting too much pressure on ourselves, but last game it was better," Iginla said. "We know it's going to change.
"We're working on it. We're going to find ways to score goals."
Calgary has allowed only eight goals. No surprise there. An exceptional group of defencemen, strong two-way forwards, and the Fabulous Finn blocking pucks make the Flames a consistently tough team to play.
"He always has such a good demeanour that if one gets by him it's not a big deal, and if he has a game he doesn't like he always comes back strong," Iginla said of Kiprusoff. "He's a huge part of our team.
"We try to play good defence in front of him. We want to find ways to be more offensive, but that's not our focus. It's all about winning. If they're tight games, they're tight games."
Kiprusoff glides into a crease at Air Canada Centre for the first time since his splendid performance in the World Cup final that Finland lost to Canada in September 2004.
Leafs captain Mats Sundin knows him well. He captained Sweden in the win over Finland in the Olympic final last February.
"Goaltending is no different than other positions in hockey in that a player of that calibre knows how to read the game," Sundin said. "He has a feeling for what's going to happen before it happens.
"He understands the shooters. He understands the position of the attackers and their patterns. He reads that. That's the same for goaltenders as any other players. That's what the best players do well."
Kiprusoff says little that is worth repeating in print. He is so laid back and calm that boring would be an accurate word to describe him when he faces the media after workouts.
He was asked while sweat dripped off his chin in a corridor of a practice rink to name the toughest thing there is about tending goal in the NHL.
Pucks whizzing by the head at 140 km/h?
Bruisers invading his crease?
"It's tough to say," he replied. "I really like every day but, of course, it's a lot of work you know — a lot of games and travel.
"It's a lot of work. There are so many good players that you have to play well night after night. But it's so much fun."
He has a 2.01 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in his four starts.
It would be even more fun for Kiprusoff if his teammates would support him with more goals.
Note: Leafs and Flames players will wear pink decals on their helmets to show support for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation. Leafs players' wives and partners and CBCF volunteers will collect donations from fans.